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7 Tips for Healthier Teeth

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To say that teeth are an integral part of our overall health would be an understatement. A set of well-cared-for choppers and healthy gums have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, lack of inflammation, and a boost in self-esteem. While brushing and flossing remain no-brainers (we're adults, we floss our teeth daily), you might also benefit from a few extra tips for managing your molars.

1. PASS ON THE ALMONDS.

Of the several dentists and hygienists we’ve spoken to for insight into the dental profession, one key tip emerged to help ward off an after-hours visit to the dentist's office to deal with a chipped tooth: Avoid almonds. The resilient little tree nut is hard to chew and can potentially compromise crowns or teeth already susceptible to injury.

2. DON’T OVER-BRUSH.

If you scrub your teeth the way you scrub your bathroom tile—like you're sawing a log in half—then you’re really doing your oral health a disservice. The plaque that accumulates during the day is relatively easy to brush off using light, gentle motions. Scrubbing vigorously is not only a waste of energy, it can damage your gumline. Try holding your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums [PDF] with just two fingers to reduce pressure; look up some proven techniques like the Bass or Stillman methods for more gentle cleaning guidelines. Better yet, ask your hygienist for a demonstration. He or she can correct any mistakes and make sure you’ve got a (gentle) handle on it.

3. DON’T OVERPAY FOR AN ELECTRIC BRUSH.

If you can’t quite break the habit of over-brushing, then an electric toothbrush is going to be your new best friend. Powered brushes vibrate or oscillate without the need for manual assistance, doing all the work for you; some even have sensors that detect if you’re mashing the bristles against your teeth with too much force. But don’t think you need the luxury model to get the benefits. According to hygienist Daniel Lopez, when you spend too much on a motorized brush you're just paying for features that won’t necessarily help your teeth. “Electric toothbrushes are without doubt superior to manual toothbrushes, but anything costing more than $50 is bunch of bells and whistles,” Lopez says.

4. DENTAL TOURISM IS RARELY A GREAT IDEA.

Haven’t heard of it? For some people who need extensive dental work, heading out of the country can seem to promise big savings. But the maxim about getting what you pay for holds true. If a foreign dentist has the proper training, then the cost for their services will probably be comparable to prices in the U.S. If they haven’t, they’re likely cutting corners on materials—in some cases, even reusing them. The resulting mess is left for domestic dentists to clean up. “I’ve seen crowns that don’t even look like they were [custom] made for the person,” says Eran Gutkin, DDS. “If they’re doing it correctly, there’s not going to be any savings by traveling.”

5. EMBRACE YOUR INNER GEEK: GET A NIGHT GUARD.

Grinding, or bruxism, is a condition in which individuals gnaw or clench their jaws while sleeping. The result can be teeth that are worn down, chipped, or even fractured. If your dentist has recommended you get fitted for a night guard, it’s not idle chatter: Wearing one can prevent major restorative work down the road. Be aware, however, that “do it yourself” services that promise to get you a custom guard for a fraction of a dentist’s price are a crap-shoot: Our experts say that a professional is needed to make sure it fits properly and offer adjustments when needed.

6. USE A STRAW.

Dentists cautioning against acidic drinks like coffee, tea, or soda know they might be better off getting into a debate with a brick—caffeine is a hard habit to break. If you insist on liquids that can harm your teeth’s enamel, opt for a straw whenever you can and try to rinse your mouth with water after drinking.

7. 20-SOMETHINGS: PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.

Think your teens and your post-retirement era are the most important period for your teeth? Not so fast. Dentists find that a lot of young adults from 21-25 are in danger of developing issues that can become chronic due to an increasingly busy lifestyle (work, school) and a belief that they’re too young to have to worry about it. By your late 20s, gum disease and decay have started to take root. (Literally.) Enjoy your youth, but don’t forget about your teeth. (And don't neglect your flossing!)

All images courtesy of iStock.

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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